What Will It Take for Greater NFC Popularity?

What’s with the lack of NFC popularity in the mainstream? Tikoracer writes:

Why isn’t near field communication (NFC) more popular? Do you think it’s because Apple hasn’t adopted it yet?

There are so many things we can do with NFC these days, and it seems that people don’t care about — or simply don’t know about — it. I think that commerce, banks, and other big companies that offer services have no idea what to do with this technology until they see a bigger NFC user population.

In my opinion, the technology is not bad and matches what we consider “the future” in data transmission (encrypted or unencrypted), but there are hundreds of millions Apple users out there who want to do more with their phones and they’re waiting for something to make their lives easier, make payments quickly, send contacts and info and other data. Is it an issue of security at this point with NFC?

Do you think Apple will move forward adopting this technology on its devices and get rid of Passbook or, even better, integrate NFC with Passbook? I feel it could lead to a much better user experience and address some security concerns that Apple users have when they make an NFC transaction… or any transaction.

What will it take for greater NFC popularity?

What will it take for greater NFC popularity?

Thanks for the question, Tikoracer!

First off, near field communications (NFC) is a technology, not a strategy. When Apple, or any other business, looks at NFC, the first thing it will consider is “what’s in it for the company?” It’s the same question we ask ourselves every time we buy any new gadget, gizmo, or device. One new toy may have better specs on paper than another, but the differences between them are only apparent once you get the chance to really play around with them in person and compare their pros and cons with hands-on experience.

Historically, some technologies that have been critically acclaimed as superior to others have lost out when taken to market. Remember Betamax vs. VHS? HD DVD vs. Blu-ray? DC vs. AC? 8-track vs. cassette? NFC popularity depends entirely on how the companies — and their customers — weigh the uses of this technology against current technologies, the cost of upgrading, and the potential value of such progress judged more by marketing and the resultant consumer demand (and stockholder pressure) rather than actual technological prowess.

You may think that NFC is fantastic and exciting and new — and you may even be correct — but why would these companies spend millions of dollars implementing something like this when their current software solutions do what they consider to be a good enough job?

Passbook is Apple’s software solution to NFC. Why go for a hardware solution when this software solution will suffice in terms of accomplishing goals? Apple would be attacked for abandoning compatibility with all of its non-NFC iPhones. The company can’t win.

I can see Apple eventually adding NFC technology to its devices, and that’d be nice, but I don’t believe its devices or users are suffering because NFC doesn’t exist natively. Also, if NFC is a sticking point for current iPhone users, there are NFC covers/cases available that will do the job. In the end, though, any progress toward NFC popularity ultimately relies on consumer interest — and that often depends more on clever marketing than any other factor involved. People can’t demand better if they don’t know any better.

Image: NFC by BeauGiles via Flickr

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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.